This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
How many are there who, while turning their attention to the cultivation of this interesting class, are yet at a loss to plant them in situations which will develop them in their natural habits of growth! Most people will agree with me in thinking that any plant is rendered more than doubly interesting if planted out in the open air, in a suitable situation, than when kept cramped and nursed in a pot under glass. We may, I think, safely say, that there are but very few gardens of a moderate size, which have not some small nook or shady corner, which, by a little taste and management, might be easily converted into an interesting spot for the cultivation of Ferns and Mosses.
Some will no doubt exclaim, that they have many suitable spots in their garden, but they happen to live in a country without stone, or any thing of which they can make a fitting substitute, - and of course in the midland counties there are many such; but will not a little ingenuity overcome the difficulty? Are there no brick-kilns or tile-works in the neighbourhood? If there are, why you then have a very decent substitute in the broken burrs and lumps of burnt clay, which may be readily procured from thence, and which, by a little management, assisted by good taste, in destroying the brick-like shape and appearance of your materials, and in giving the mass a natural outline, neither studiously broken nor tamely the reverse, may be made into one of the prettiest spots in the garden. Always, if possible, choose a situation against a bank or rising ground; carry in your mind's eye any old quarry (which of all places, in a stony country, is the best by far of all,) which you may happen to have seen, and follow that in its leading features; and if you can contrive to have a variety of aspects, why so much the better.
Ferns (or very few of them) will not succeed in the bright glare of sunshine; but the face of the rockery, which is unshaded, and to the south, may be planted with Sedums and Arabis and little Alpine plants, interspersed with a few Ferns, such as the Mountain Parsley Fern (Pteris or Cryptogramma crispa), the Scaly Hart's Tongue (Grammitis Ceterach), and the Wall Rue (Asplenium Ruta muraria and Asplenium Tricho-manes).
The interest of the fernery will be much increased if there is a small bog contrived in a shady corner, by puddling the bottom of a basin of stones with some tenacious clay, and filling it with rotten leaves and common moss, with some Sphagnum on the top of the whole, and well saturated with soft water; and if a small spring can be directed into it, so much the better. In the bog will be planted the Royal flowering Fern (Osmunda regalis), and at the edge may be planted the lovely waving Lady Fern (Filix Foemina), and the two varieties of Filmy Fern (the Hymenophyllum Tunbridgense and Wilsonii), and varied by a tuft of Myosotis palustris, and the compact bright-green little Cornish Moneywort (Sibthorpia euro-peed), and ivy-leaved Campanula (Campanula hederacea), and the common Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia); in fact, once turn your attention towards the subject, and many lovely and interesting plants will suggest themselves, - the Water Ranunculus and Alisma among the number.
If the fernery could be contrived on the edge of a piece of water, either large or small, it would be a great advantage, as then you may cultivate the aquatic plants and rushes, and Equisetums, which, with the Ferns, Mosses, and Lichens, might be grouped in endless variety, and form of itself a spot of unceasing and most interesting study; and there we may contemplate the wonderful works of Nature, and learn to praise nature's God, our common Maker, " to whom all glory".